Friday, 15 April 2011

It's like this ...

While we usually associate similes and metaphors with poetry and other forms of so-called creative writing, these figures of speech are, in fact, fairly common in everyday language. The reason we probably don’t consciously register them as similes and metaphors is that they are usually very familiar fixed expressions that roll off our tongues just like any other word or phrase.

A few examples of such familiar similes are: cool as a cucumber, snug as a bug in a rug, like a bull in a china shop, sick as a dog, swear like a trooper, drink like a fish. Or a bit more modern, if somewhat slangy: lekke’ like a cracker, cool like a pool, going like a Boeing. Everyday metaphors are found in sentences like I flew out of there and I’m snowed under with work.

This is precisely the type of phrase that some language teachers love to include in language tests (“Complete the following similes …”) but hate to see in your creative writing, since in the latter they expect something … well … more creative, not just the same old tired phrases.

In creative writing one is expected to come up with gems like the following:

• dark trees bending together as though whispering secrets

• despondency clung to him like a wet garment

• a drowsy murmur floated into the air like thistledown

• a face as imperturbable as fate

• he turned on me like a thunder-cloud

• restless as a blue-bottle fly on a warm summer's day

• shadowy faces passing as petals upon a stream.

(If you like these, visit for many more.)

But it’s not that easy to create striking, fresh similes! The following purport to be similes found in students' essays:

• Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

• The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

• The thunder was ominous-sounding, much like the sound of a thin sheet of metal being shaken backstage during the storm scene in a play.

• Her eyes were like two brown circles with black dots in the centre.

• He was as tall as a six-foot three-inch tree.

• John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

• Bob was as perplexed as a hacker who meant to access\aaakk/ch@ugh but gets T:flw.quidaaakk/ch@ung by mistake.

Exercise: Now that you have had a little chuckle, try and create your own images to replace the unsuccessful ones in these sentences!

(Good luck :) –ws–


Andre said...

As quiet as a crowded lift...

Nicky said...

Hi Andre, thank you for your comment. I like your simile! Sorry it's taken me so long to respond – I had simply neglected to check my older posts for possible comments. Have you read some of my other articles?